Saturday, March 11, 2017

Prague, Czech Republic

There are always these places that seem so close that I could visit them every other weekend, but in reality I somehow end up going everywhere else but there. When I lived in Estonia, it was Vilnius (I still need to go there!). In Konstanz, it's Strasbourg, Milan and Prague. Countless times I started planning a trip to the Czech capital, but it never worked out. Until now! Celebrating Matt's brother's first time in Europe, we decided to try to show him as much as possible and what better way to do it than a roadtrip - Konstanz, M√ľnchen, Prague and Berlin! It was such a fun time, the best possible way to move (oh yea, I live in Berlin now!) and all in all a good route to see very different cities.

Since I've been waiting for this trip forever, I had the time to develop tons of expectations on Prague. Sadly, the last weeks in Konstanz were so busy, that I hardly had the time to do the research, which I usually do very (very!) throughly. But since it was the first time in Prague for all of us, it was perfectly fine to check out all the famous sights from Charles Bridge to Prague Castle to John Lennon wall and so on. What shocked me was how touristy the historic centre was - tacky souvenir shops, overpriced restaurants and umbrella-waving tour guides everywhere. And that was in February... Thus, even though Prague is stereotypically the cheaper destination in Central Europe, this takes quite a bit of work to actually find. Now add a completely different language and constant calculations with the local currency to the pot and you get the idea of how confused we were. But we made it work and I definately plan on going back to the beautiful city some time when I can enjoy the delicious beer outside in the middle of these beautiful views (and selfie sticks). 

Tips from our experience with Prague:
1. If you go by car, exchange money ahead of time so that you can buy the highway sticker on the border without having to choose between the horrible price in Euros or the worst exchange rate offered in the country. 
2. Speaking of currency exchange, the best rate we got was from the Sparkasse (only relevant for people coming from Germany, I suppose) ATMs using the rate offered by our home bank. Kind of risky since you won't know the rate when you pull out cash, but worked out for us.
3. DO YOUR RESEARCH. It's easy to get lost and hangry in the middle of everyone trying to sell you something when you don't know what you're doing. Next time I'll try to make a list of places to eat, so that we can just head straight to a known place instead of looking for a restaurant with empty stomachs. 
4. Public transport is awesome. It takes you anywhere, saves your energy for the evening beers instead of walking all day and has reasonable pricing (we used day passes). As a bonus, you can ride these crazy long escalators to the subway. 
5. Enjoy the free views. We paid to get into the "Eiffel tower" viewing platform, but I found the views from the Castle equally as nice. In the evening, get some drinks and head up to the Metronome for the view and some more authentic environment with tons of young people. 
6. Eat those sweet roll things. I read that they aren't even Czech. I don't care what they are, they were awesome. 

Oops, I didn't plan on writing so much in this post. Here's some photo material. Since I honestly plan on going back sooner rather than later, all recommendations for Prague are welcome! Maybe I'll even manage to read some Kafka before the next trip.